Masking Tape vs Painters Tape: What Is the Difference?

Because painter’s tape is more expensive than masking tape, many DIYers opt for the cheaper option to save money. But is masking tape the same as painter’s tape? While you can use either tape for your painting projects, there are pros and cons to masking tape vs. painter’s tape.

The primary difference between masking and painter’s tape is the adhesive. Painter’s tape is designed to avoid paint bleeding and remove easily. For this reason, it’s less likely to leave behind a sticky residue or cause damage to the painted walls and other surfaces.

In this article, we’ll dive into the pros and cons of each tape type and show you the differences and similarities. Use the information to pick the best tape for your needs and budget.

Masking Tape vs Painters Tape

Is Masking Tape the Same as Painter’s Tape?

Masking tape is not the exact same as painter’s tape. They are both tapes that people tend to use for painting projects. However, there are disadvantages to using masking tape over painter’s tape.

What is Masking Tape?

Masking tape is an easy-to-tear tape with varying degrees of adhesion and uses. It has a thin crepe paper back and solvent-free, natural adhesion. Most masking tapes are beige, and they’re often wider than painter’s tape.

Pros

  • Cheaper
  • Creates clean lines with fast projects
  • Ideal for painting windows, metal, or canvas

Cons

  • Not ideal for water-based paint
  • You must remove the tape within hours, or it may not come off cleanly
  • Could leave a sticky residue that’s difficult to clean
  • Any paint that sticks to the surface may peel when you remove the tape

What is Painter’s Tape?

Painter’s tape is a specialized kind of masking tape. It’s designed for painting preparation. The tape offers a medium-level adhesion, which allows you to later remove the tape cleanly and efficiently. Unlike general-purpose masking tape, painter’s tape prevents the paint from bleeding or leaving behind residue. You can spot painter’s tape by the blue, green, or yellow color.

Pros

  • Widely available
  • Produces clean lines
  • Can sit on a surface for up to 14 days and still come off clean
  • Made for painting projects
  • Will not buckle or pucker, no matter what paint type you use

Cons

  • More expensive

Masking Tape vs. Painter’s Tape: What Is the Difference?

Tape for painting

Masking and painter’s tape are often confused because they are similar in look and feel. To make matters more confusing, a painter’s tape is the same as masking tape. However, not all masking tapes are painter’s tapes. Painter’s tape is designed for precision with all your painting projects. Here are how the similarities and differences between the tapes break down.

Adhesive

While both masking and painter’s tapes are made with crepe paper backing that’s easy to tear with your hands or write on, the main difference is the adhesive. Masking tape has a natural rubber adhesive, which may bleed or leave residue behind. On the other hand, painter’s tape has a medium adhesion level that tends to stick well to various surfaces and remove reliably.

Bleeding

The type of paint you’re using may help determine which tape is ideal for the job. For example, painter’s tape will not bleed or pucker when using water-based lucite house paints as masking tape does. The natural rubber adhesive on masking tape may buckle with water-based paints, causing the tape to buckle and permitting paint to seep below the tape.

If you want to ensure your tape will not buckle and cause the paint to bleed, go with painter’s tape. It’s made for any paint type, so you can rest assured you will always have clean lines.

Residue

The natural rubber adhesive on masking tape could also cause the tape to leave a sticky residue behind. The mess is difficult to clean. However, masking tape does work well if you’re painting windows because it comes off glass cleanly.

Clean Lines

Technically, both tape types can help you achieve a clean, straight line. However, painter’s tape tends to adhere to surfaces better and longer. You can leave painter’s tape on a surface for up to 14 days without causing harm. Masking tape can also produce clean lines if you remove it within a couple of hours of applying it, but the tape is not reliable for a long time.

To know exactly how long you can leave your tape on the surface and still produce clean lines, look at the label. Most tapes have a label that shows the amount of clean removal time, ranging from a couple of days to weeks.

The exact time depends on the tape’s construction and quality. Knowing how long you can leave the tape in place will help determine how long your project may take. For example, painter’s tape is better if your project may last weeks.

Alternatively, some painter’s tapes include an absorbent polymer barrier that keeps paint out and helps produce extra-sharp lines. Using this type of painter’s tape is ideal if you’re planning to paint shapes, stripes, or decorative patterns.

Uses

The differences in how the tape works help determine the best uses for each option as well. Masking tape is excellent for painting windows, glass, canvas, and small projects. If you have a small hobby project, masking tape may be sufficient.

On the other hand, painter’s tape is great for projects where you may need to leave the tape on the surface for several days, like a large painting project or home remodel. It’s also great for precision lines like you would want when painting stripes or patterns.

Price

Painter’s tape is often more expensive than masking tape. Although there are more disadvantages to using masking tape, it could save you money as long as you’re willing to take a few extra steps to clean up the result. If you have a large project or are painting for business, however, using painter’s tape will save you time and money.

Availability

Painter’s tape is widely available at any home improvement or hardware store, while you can find traditional masking tape just about anywhere.

How to Use Masking Tape

What is painters tape

If you choose to use masking tape, you may need to perform touch-ups, repair the damage, or remove residue after you finish painting. The residue is typically the biggest problem. You don’t want to leave the tape to sit on the surface for too long, or it may become unable to peel off the wall cleanly or leave behind more residue than you thought possible.

Some masking tapes may also have the opposite issue. They could have low adhesion, making the tape come undone while you’re painting. You can remove the paint that seeps through or touch-up the job later, but you might need to plan accordingly.

Use masking tape only for quick home improvement projects. Apply the tape in short strips for easy removal, and seal the edges by running your fingers over the tape. Leave plenty of time to remove residue or complete touch-ups after painting. If you’re painting for a business project, go with painter’s tape to save time and money.

Can You Use Masking Tape for Painting?

Masking tape is an effective tool for various painting projects. However, you must take a few extra steps to prepare for your project and make sure the results are crisp. For the best results, stick to small projects and remove the paint within a few hours. Plan to clean, perform touch-ups, and repair any potential damage later as well.

Can You Paint Over Masking Tape?

You can paint over masking tape. However, it’s not the best idea to paint directly over it. If the paint happens to stick to the surface, you may peel it off while removing the tape. Doing so could produce shaky lines, peeling, or damaged walls.

You can avoid causing damage by adding a thin coat of clear acrylic paint on the edges of the tape. When it’s dry, use acrylic paint to cover the area, and you can pull the masking tape free with no issues.

Does Masking Tape Damage Walls?

Masking tape can damage a wall’s surface due to the strong adhesion. Many masking tapes leave residue or remove the top paint layer from the wall when you rip it off. You may notice more peeling or damage if you press the tape onto the surface too hard.

You can fix any wall damage the tape may cause by sanding the area by hand with low-grit sandpaper. Doing so removes any loose paint chips, residue, or broken drywall pieces. Brush the wall using a dry cloth when you’re done to remove the debris particles, then use a waterproof primer to correct the top layer of your drywall.

Does Masking Tape Leave Residue?

The natural rubber adhesive on masking tape does leave a residue behind, which can be challenging to remove. The longer you allow masking tape to sit on the surface, the more residue you may have when you peel it off.

How to Remove Masking Tape Residue

For the best results with masking tape, remove it as soon as you finish painting. Otherwise, you may notice a higher build-up of residue. You can remove the residue by dissolving the glue. Saturate a piece of newspaper with a solvent, and wipe it over the residue. Next, use a plastic scraper or putty knife to lift the glue from the surface. Clean the surface using another piece of newspaper and a damp microfiber cloth.

Light residue on vinyl, glass, or linoleum surfaces may come off with as little as warm water, liquid dish soap, and a sponge. The heat softens the glue, and the soap helps break down the bond further. Soak the area for 10 to 20 minutes, then wipe the gunk away.

When working with non-porous surfaces, you could also use rubbing alcohol instead of soapy water. However, if you use rubbing alcohol, make sure it’s isopropyl alcohol and perform a spot test first to ensure you don’t ruin the surface. Wipe the sticky residue with an alcohol-soaked cloth, leave it to dry, and wipe away anything left behind.

If it’s stubborn, you can remove masking tape residue using a hairdryer. You hold the hairdryer a few inches from the tape for this process as you pull it free from the wall. The heat helps remove tape and residue from wallpaper, paint, furniture, and more.

The Best Tape for Painting

Given the comparison above, it’s better to use painter’s tape over masking tape. Painter’s tape works well for a wide range of projects. The results are also much more reliable. Here are the best painter’s tapes on the market.

ScotchBlue Original Painter’s Tape

ScotchBlue Original Multi-Surface Painter’s Tape, 0.94 inch x 60 yard, 3 RollsFor a classic blue painter’s tape, go with ScotchBlue Original. It has a medium adhesion level that works on a wide range of surfaces, including smooth and lightly textured walls, baseboards, glass, trim, and tile. The tape can stay for up to 14 days and remove cleanly, causing no wall damage or sticky residue.

The best part is that this painter’s tape is also sunlight and UV resistant. Whether you need a tape for short or long-term use, ScotchBlue produces stunning results every time.

Frogtape Multi-Surface Painter’s Tape

FROGTAPE 1358463 Multi-Surface Painter's Tape with PAINTBLOCK, Medium Adhesion, 0.94' Wide x 60 Yards Long, GreenFrogtape is the green type of multi-surface painter’s tape. Unlike the similar blue painter’s tape, this option is made for professionals. It can sit in place for up to 7 days in direct sunlight or 21 days in an interior space. The medium adhesion allows for clean removal on painted walls, wood trim, metal, or glass.

Plus, the paint block technology in this tape helps keep paint out and keep lines sharp. You can expect this tape to perform a step above traditional painter’s tape. The manufacturer even provides videos with the best applications and techniques for using the tape.

Summary

You can use either masking or painter’s tape for most painting projects. Overall, painter’s tape performs better. It creates smoother lines and does not cause damage to your walls. That said, you could plan to spend time fixing these issues and save money by purchasing masking tape for small projects. The choice depends on your paint type and the look you hope to achieve.

Did you find the information you need to select the best tape for your painting project? Share your experiences with us in the comments, and please share our article to help your friends produce stellar painting results.

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